oh daddy, my daddy

Do you know where that comes from? ‘Oh daddy, my daddy!’ cries Bobby in the Railway Children, when she finally sees her father getting off the train.  I’ve felt like crying that too in the last few months as I try to come to terms with the loss of my father.

Just before Christmas, on the 20th of December, he died after three weeks in hospital.DSC_0091

At the time, I wrote to friends:

After coming up to be with us for a break, he got very ill and did not really show signs of recovering.  It was very sad to see him so restricted – he was very keen just to go home.
We have a great assurance that he is now home and released from all the ways his body failed him.  He fought the good fight, he finished the race, he kept the faith. For him, in the words of one his favourite writers:  “The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning.”  (C. S. Lewis, The Last Battle)
While I remain convinced that this is true, the loss is still huge, the gap in our lives very tangible.  I’ve spent the last couple of days going through my Dad’s things: papers, shirts, shoes, magazines, letters, socks, pens, reading glasses, books, books and books.  What a strange mess of things he has left behind yet I still find in them something of the essence of who he was.

The day it rained in colours

I have just read D one of my favourite childhood stories, one of the few that I still own in the original version.  Three children visit Greyland and meet a little grey boy.  Everything is grey.  The people who live there have forgotten what colour is.

I feel like I have been spending time in the grey lands at the moment, engaged in things that drain me.  I have been thinking about money, invoices and receipts, bank forms and spreadsheets, committees and processes; I have also been accompanying someone very dear to me as they grapple with the bureaucracy of the benefits system.

One of my favourite illustrations in the story is this one:  I love the pleasure and abandon of the people enjoying colour.  We are often told to spend time doing things that energise us. I am learning that colour and creativity energise me in a completely physical way.  When I can barely lift a pen to face filling in a new form, I can imagine something to make and be filled with an excitement and energy that will keep me up to for hours.

In the story, its only when the grey people remember their Maker and say sorry and ask for his help that it starts to rain in colour.  I have also learnt (and how easily I forget!) that remembering my Maker and all he’s done for me each day fills me with energy that can transform the most mundane of tasks.

I will need to hold on to both of these lessons in the next few weeks: remembering my Maker and working on small creative projects. Both will keep me going in the midst of the numbers and the forms.

 

Resurrection day

Its resurrection day – the greatest celebration day in the Christian calendar:  Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.

This time last year we got up very early in the morning, before the sun rose and with many other people climbed a hill to watch the sunrise.  As the light spread, we stood under a large wooden cross.  Together we sang and prayed.  In a symbolic action, a few people hammered stakes into the ground.  Afterwards everyone came down the hill and shared breakfast together.

 

I think this early morning hill climb needs to become part of our family Easter tradition – it takes us beyond church into an event that involves a little bit of sacrifice (the getting up early);  a physical echo of that first Easter morning (feeling the pre-dawn cold, the damp grass, the darkness); praise and worship, focussing on the Name that is above every Name; physical reminders of Jesus death and resurrection in the empty cross;  creation declaring the story as the sun rises, a new day, a fresh start.

I like the fact that it is an action that jolts us out of our routines.  Celebrating something as out of the ordinary as this Resurrection Day needs to take us out of ourselves, to give us a glimpse of another world, the other Kingdom Jesus came to establish.  Sharing it with others, walking, climbing, praying and eating together strengthen us for the journey.  Yes, this is an experience I want to repeat and share, over and over through the years.

O Lord, may my soul rise up to meet you, as the day rises to meet the sun.  Glory to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now and willl be forever.  Amen.

 

Heavy and light

Conversations this week have prompted me to meditate on these great lines by Gerard Manley Hopkins:

In a flash, at a trumpet crash,
I am all at once what Christ is, ‘ since he was what I am, and
This Jack, joke, poor potsherd, ‘ patch, matchwood, immortal diamond,
Is immortal diamond.

They are from a poem entitled: That Nature is a Heraclitean Fire and of the comfort of the Resurrection. I don’t claim to understand or have even read the whole poem, but I love the words above with which it finishes.  Heraclitean fire? I’m not sure about that, but here is light and truth which I can live with.  I say them again to myself:

In a flash, at a trumpet crash,
I am all at once what Christ is, ‘ since he was what I am, and
This Jack, joke, poor potsherd, ‘ patch, matchwood, immortal diamond,
Is immortal diamond.

Thanksgiving

The sun was shining.  The sea was sparkling.  I read a few pages of a new book and sipped a cup of coffee.  Daniel played happily on the plastic digger in the children’s play area. Kirsten slept in her cocoon at my feet.  I thanked God for my beautiful children and for those moments of peace to pause and appreciate them.

Thanksgiving day

Its Thanksgiving Day in America – a holiday and celebration I think every country should have.  According to President Obama’s proclamation,  its a day for Americans to come together … with gratitude for all we have received in the past year, to express appreciation to those whose lives enrich our own and to share our bounty with others. Thanksgiving – we should all do more of it.

Here I am again, six months since I wrote my first post and three months since I wrote my last one. My reflections on the last three months are messy: a heap of loose ends and tangled thoughts making a very effective writer’s block.  So lets sweep all that to one side and start with where we are today, Thanksgiving and a list (easy to write, easy to read).  These are the things I’m giving thanks for, right now.

Actually, not so easy to write.  Where to start?  Where to stop?  There are so many things to include in one list from the mundane to the invaluable.  Who am I giving thanks to?   Maybe I should be phoning or writing to people to say thank-you.  Enough.  Here’s the list:

Our flat and the quiet, peace and space we enjoy; good food, daily; good design; the internet and everything I can do on it; my baby boy running around, trying out new words and sounds, strong, healthy, happy and funny; my husband, friend, companion and wonderful father;  I appreciate my sister coming to see us today and staying for supper; I appreciate my good friends living good lives – showing me it can be done; I appreciate my family, past present and future;  I appreciate knowing the constant presence of a loving God.  For all of this and so much more, I give thanks.

Walk and not faint

I’m sad because while I was in Edinburgh, my father ended up back in hospital.  It seems he once again has some kind of infection, possibly in his brain.  From being in a high-dependancy unit he is now in a normal ward, on anti-biotics, starting a gradual climb back to some kind of health.  I worry that every time this happens his body’s resilience is further battered and bruised.  Its a strange thing that seems to attack him so suddenly: the morning before he ended up in hospital he was up and dressed and drinking coffee with us, seeming well.

As we sat at the kitchen table just that morning, he mentioned a quote from the prophet Isaiah: Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.  That’s what I’m hoping, he said.  I’m left reflecting on those words, hoping them for him too.  For him just to be able to walk and not be faint would be enough for now.

Not my home…

I’ve been thinking a bit about Negro spirituals recently.  Maybe because we are in the process of selling our flat and it makes me realise how we become attached to our homes.  The lines of a song my mother used to sing go round in my head: “This world is not my home, I’m just apassing through, if heaven’s not my home, then Lord what will I do?”  

When our lives are comfortable and our homes are secure, we don’t have much need of a hope of heaven.  When life is difficult, as it surely was for black slaves, what hope is there, if not hope that in my father’s house, there are many mansions? Hope that knows that heaven is sure?  So the songs say:

‘I want to go home, where there’s no hard trials, I want to go home, where there’s no whip a-crackin’

‘My brudder, how long,  ‘Fore we done sufferin’ here? It won’t be long, it won’t be long, it won’t be long, ‘For de Lord will call us home.’

‘Wish I was in heaven sitting down, wish I was in heaven sitting down, wouldn’t get tired no more, wouldn’t get tired no more.‘  Song after song about their hope of heaven.  

Those song-writers, rich in faith, knew that surely heaven is not a place on earth.  ‘They admitted they were aliens and strangers on earth… they were looking for a country of their own, longing for a better place – a heavenly one.  Therefore, God is proud to be called ‘their God’ and he has prepared a City for them.’  Proud to be called God of the the slaves, the stranger, the alien, God of the homeless, the refugee, the asylum seeker,  God of the orphan, God of the widow.  This is my God. Hallelujah!

While I was musing on this, Mark Meynell drew my attention to this album:  Wayfaring Stranger – A Spiritual Songbook Kristin Asbjørnsen She is a Norwegian singer with a voice straight out of a jazz club doing an album of Negro Spiritual covers. I love it. Read what Mark has to say about it on his blog – Quaerentia (http://markmeynell.wordpress.com/ – always worth a look).